PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 2020 has been a year of loss — more than 300,000 Americans have died, businesses have shuttered and lives have been torn apart by the coronavirus. COVID-19 ravaged the country and world but there is some hope as vaccines begin to reach our area.
Here are the biggest coronavirus stories of the year.
After tearing through Asia and Europe, COVID-19 landed in the Delaware Valley in early March. On March 4, New Jersey announced its first presumptive positive case of the virus, and it was all downhill from there.
Cases began to pile up and eventually, restrictions were put in place as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware went into lockdown.
On March 21, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all New Jersey residents to stay home. Two days later, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf followed suit in Philadelphia and the suburbs.
Nonessential businesses closed, schools went virtual and life came to a halt in the Delaware Valley.
But not everyone followed the rules.
In late March, a Lakewood, New Jersey homeowner was charged for hosting a pop-up wedding with more than 50 people in attendance, after Murphy banned large gatherings.
In April, Delaware caused a stir when officials announced police had been given the authority to pull over out-of-state drivers. Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency declaration “authorized any Delaware law enforcement officer to stop a vehicle driving within the state simply because it is displaying out-of-state tags.”
The Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey gained notoriety throughout the spring and summer for repeatedly ignoring the state’s shutdown of gyms and nonessential businesses. The back-and-forth between the gym’s owners and health officials began in May when the gym opened against orders.
Summonses and fines were issued, and lawsuits were filed as the gym was continually shut down and reopened. The gym and its owners became a hot spot for protesters against the state’s shelter-at-home orders.
In late July, owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti were arrested but the gym reopened yet again.
Pennsylvania Republicans approve bill to reopen
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, state Republicans and Gov. Wolf were in a showdown of their own. In April, Pennsylvania House lawmakers voted yes to a bill that would have allowed businesses to reopen, so long as they follow CDC guidelines on social distancing.
The bill was met with intense contention as all Democratic lawmakers voted against the measure.
Eventually, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware residents broke the curve and life shifted to a new normal — restrictions were eased and businesses began to reopen with certain restrictions in place.
On June 15, New Jersey entered stage two of its recovery plan, as residents rushed to their favorite restaurants for outdoor dining, and to get their first haircuts in months.
In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and its suburbs were the last in the state to enter the “green phase” of reopening. The city entered a modified green phase on July 3, keeping indoor dining and gyms shuttered. Things like museums and libraries, indoor shopping malls, and small indoor and outdoor gatherings were permitted.
But as life reached a new normal, a second wave hit the area. In late July, Philadelphia health officials said a second wave of the virus was being fueled by young people and family gatherings.
“This is really being spread within families and at social events,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “Your relatives are no less likely to have COVID than strangers. Anybody can have this infection and not know it. You should assume that anybody you’re around has an infection.”
Cases began to spread across the country like wildfire in the late summer and fall. No one was spared, including the president.
In mid-September, a White House staffer tested positive for COVID-19 less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump visited Philadelphia.
A week later, the White House flaunted CDC recommendations, creating a superspreader event, at a ceremony to announce Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee.
Eventually, President Trump, Melania Trump, New Jersey native Kellyanne Conway, and many more tested positive for coronavirus in October.
Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail and Remdesivir.
The late fall finally gave the country a sign of hope when the Pfizer vaccine was approved in early December. The vaccine was proven to be 95% effective by the FDA.
The vaccine came just in time, as hospitalizations hit a record high in Delaware, and case counts soared following Thanksgiving.
Hospitals across the Delaware Valley began administering the vaccine to health care workers on Dec. 16.
Frontline workers described the vaccine as a “gift.”
“After getting this vaccine, I feel a big relief in my heart that I can come back home and my family will be safe,” said Dr. Gabriel Patarroyo-Aponte with Einstein Medical Center.
But despite the arrival of the first batch of vaccines, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley warned not to gather with family over the holidays, which could lead to yet another spike.